Photo via Dennis "The Beard" Bryant Facebook Page

Contender Series’s Dennis “The Beard” Bryant: On the verge of a dream come true

On Tuesday evening, Dennis Bryant (5-1) has a chance to defy the odds.

The 32-year-old light heavyweight will compete on the season finale of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. The UFC Fight Pass original pins top prospects from North America (and beyond) against one another. The stakes are high with a potential UFC contract hanging in the balance.

For Bryant to even have gotten this far is amazing. Growing up in a small, remote town of Kodiak, Alaska, Bryant couldn’t have ever dreamed of the success he’s had as a professional mixed martial artist. Children who wanted to play youth sports in Kodiak really had to choose between one of two choices: basketball and wrestling. “The Beard” chose the latter.

After finishing up school, Bryant joined the United States Marine Corps. When he eventually exited the military, the banged-up United States veteran was battling some injuries. One thing led to the next, and Bryant found himself out of shape. He needed something to get himself back on track.

“[I] couldn’t find a wrestling gym that adults can train at,” remembered Bryant in an interview with MMA Today. “So I started taking jiu jitsu classes. From there I started training MMA. And then from there I ended up taking a fight and so on and so on.”

The current Alaska FC Light Heavyweight Champion, Bryant, has bounced between the 205-pound and 265-pound divisions, taking on any and all opponents.

“Light heavyweight is my ideal weight class,” explained Bryant. “I’d be small at heavyweight for the weight class, especially in the UFC. Most heavyweights there are pushing almost 300 pounds, whereas I’m pushing like 220-230. Light heavyweight is my ideal.”

“All of my heavyweight fights, I could have fought at light heavyweight at the same time,” continued Bryant. “It all just depends on my opponent.”

After going 4-1 through his first five bouts, Bryant defeated Onosai Moana at Alaska FC 135 this past November. Following the bout, Bryant secured a spot on the aforementioned Contender Series. How he entered, however, deviates from the normal way prospects usually are signed: a talent agency.

“I actually got hit up by a talent scout on Instagram,” explained Bryant. “There was this lady from TalentBid and they’re a company who finds talent for TV shows. They got contracted by the UFC to find talent. She asked me to fill out a profile, so I filled it out. She submitted it to the UFC and they accepted it.”

Being a mixed marital artist isn’t Bryant’s only responsibility in life. For his full time day job, Bryant works as an international pipe inspector for an oil company. Unable to take an extended period of time off from work for this upcoming bout, Bryant found himself in Darwin, Australia for part of this fight camp. Splitting time between his home gym of Anchorage Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and his new gyms, Lukphinong Muaythai, and Darwin Jiu Jitsu Studio, has been great, says Bryant.

Bryant believes the three teams have prepared him for the task at hand. The Alaskan will take on 26-year-old Fortis MMA product Kennedy Nzechukwu (5-0) tomorrow night, live on UFC Fight Pass. Nzechukwu competed on the inaugural season of the Contender Series which aired last summer. Despite winning his bout, Nzechukwu looked a bit too “green” to earn the UFC contract. Back with a whole year’s worth of additional experience under his belt, the Nigeria-born fighter is just as hungry as Bryant.

“I know he’s got long reach and is a tall dude,” said Bryant of his 6’4″, 205-pound opponent. “He outlasts his opponents a lot. All of his wins, the guys end up getting gassed against them and he picks them apart slowly. He’s not somebody to take lightly. I’m taking him very seriously.”

“I’m not expecting just to walk through him, I’m expecting a good strong fight,” he continued. “I don’t like to talk trash, I’m not a trash talker, but I am coming for the finish — just because it is the Contender Series. I want to make sure I get a contract, so I’ve got to go for the glory on this one.”

Winning a UFC contract would mean everything to the kid who grew up wrestling in his hometown of Kodiak, Alaska. Just seven fights into his professional career, Dennis Bryant could — quite frankly — live out his dream.

“I’ll tell you the truth. It’d be surreal,” said Bryant. “I probably wouldn’t believe it if it happened. That would be a dream come true. The cool thing is that I’m at a point in my life where I can put everything into it, too. If fighting came to where I got to fight for this UFC, I’d get to put everything that I had into it. It’d be awesome and amazing and fun. I enjoy fighting and training and it would be awesome to do this full time.”

I’d like to thank the three gyms who have been helping me a lot. My gym back home in the summertime — there were a lot of guys who came in when it was nice weather (it’s not nice out very often in Alaska). These guys gave up beautiful, sunny weather to come train with me. That’s at my home gym at Anchorage Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Thank you to Lukphinong Muaythai. These guys literally stopped their training in the gym and focused their training around me. Everything we were doing in the gym, was focused on me.

That’s the same thing with the Darwin Jiu Jitsu Studio. When I come into practice, it’s no longer a team practice. It’s practice to get Dennis ready. I can’t do it without those guys. All three of those gyms, they supported me and I was not expecting them to do that for me. So I owe them all a big thank you.“- The Beard


To learn more about Dennis Bryant, follow him on social media:

Instagram: @mmabeard
Facebook: Dennis “The Beard” Bryant
Twitter: @DennisBryant3


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Nolan King is a MMA Today senior columnist, writer and renowned MMA insider. Nolan's other freelance work can also be found on FloCombat, Tapology, and MMA Brasil.